If you are not a designer and are looking to put together marketing materials for your business, you can create something very nice and make a real statement by avoiding one simple mistake. It’s a mistake that is so common among non-professionals (and even quite a few of them too) it’s more or less the standard. Why it prevails is one of the great mysteries of the marketing world, because it’s so easy to avoid if you can exercise a little bit of good judgement and discipline.

The mistake is this … information overload, aka, clutter.

From business cards to billboards, business owners and overzealous marketing directors just cannot help from throwing everything – including the kitchen sink – into everything they design. The golden rule of “less is more” is one that they never learned. It’s also one you need to write on a sticky note IN ALL CAPS (yes a contradiction, but necessary to emphasize its importance) and slap on your computer screen to remind yourself to only include what is absolutely necessary in any layout you are involved in.

How do you assess what’s necessary? Easy. Set an objective for everything you design (or oversee) and measure every single thing you are considering including in said design against it.

For instance, in most cases a business card’s objective is to convey three things. A sense of your company’s brand, what your company does, and how to get in touch with you. Anything beyond that is too much and will add clutter that detracts from the primary message and thus makes achieving the communication objective less likely.

So do you really need to include a fax number when fax machines have virtually disappeared from the modern office? Do you need two email addresses? A long list of services when the name of your company implies you do all that anyway? You get the picture.

And don’t fall into the trap of making everything as big as you possibly can. Most logos are presented at least 50 percent bigger than they need to be. Think about it. If your logo is the only graphic on your card, it will still be seen and processed by any eye at half the size you might be considering. In fact, with more “white space” around it, it actually draws more attention being smaller. And it just plain looks classier.

Smaller fonts have the same impact. Less is more. Remember it the next time you design something to print.

One other trick that’s especially useful with business card design: utilize ALL the available space. Why would you not use both sides of the card? Years ago, it was a cost issue. Printing two sides nearly doubled the cost of printing. With modern printing solutions, though, printing two sides can cost as little as 10-15% more than one side alone.

Printing on both sides of a business card allows for more white space so graphics and type have room to breath. Since they aren’t competing as fiercely for attention, they perform better. And that’s what less is more is all about.